Last night, Laurence Fishburne became the first actor to be honored by the D.C. Bar Foundation. Fishburne is the star of the one-man show "Thurgood," based on the life of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
At a reception after Sunday night's performance at the Kennedy Center, Marna Tucker, vice president of the foundation, presented Fishburne with a framed set of first-day Thurgood Marshall stamps.
Noticeably tired after finishing up his second performance of the day, Fishburne told the crowd of more than 200 people at the reception that before he took the role in ”Thurgood,” Marshall was “just a fact to me.”
“Doing this play I learned everything that you learned tonight,” Fishburne said. “Everything you heard I did not know.”
The play looks at Marshall’s legendary life and career, from his early schooling through the years fighting segregation in court, the twice-argued Brown v. Board of Education, and how President Lyndon Johnson put him on the Supreme Court.
Fishburne thanked the lawyers in the crowd for continuing to “use the law the way Marshall teaches us.” He said, “I hope that if my work inspires you to remember why you got involved in this crazy business of law to begin with, then I’ve done my job and hopefully you can go out and continue to do yours.”
Also speaking at the June 13 reception was John Payton, head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund—a job that had once been held by Marshall himself. Payton called the play “sensationally inspiring” and said it should serve as a reminder that “things only get changed because of the impact of people.”
Marshall’s widow, Cecilia Marshall, and other members of the late justice’s family were in attendance.
The reception was sponsored by seven law firms—Arnold & Porter; Banner & Witcoff; Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll; Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner; McDermott Will & Emery; Sutherland Asbill & Brennan; and Venable—as well as 13 of Marshall’s law clerks, SunTrust Bank, and The National Law Journal/Legal Times.
Nine of the former clerks were able to attend, including Kevin Baine, a partner at Williams & Connolly; Susan Low Bloch, Sheryll Cashin, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center; Mark Tushnet, a professor at Harvard law School; Kenneth Simons, a professor at Boston University School of Law; Ira Feinberg, a partner at Hogan Lovells; and Robert Weiner, associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.